Solar boats and planes

I’m not sure what’s in the air (or maybe make it under the sun) these days but I just saw news from Bayer MaterialScience and DuPont talking about solar airplane and solar boat projects. I guess solar roofs are too boring nowadays ;-)

Bayer said it has become an official partner of the Solar Impulse project, which aims to create the world’s first manned solar airplane that will fly around the world purely fueled by solar energy. The plane will carry an impressive 12,000 solar cells covering its surface to run 4 electrical engines and store the solar energy for the night in 400 kilograms of lithium batteries.

Some of Bayer’s materials will include Baytubes® carbon nanotubes that could increase battery performance and improve the strength of structural components while keeping their weight to a minimum, innovative adhesives, polyurethane rigid foams for paneling in the cockpit and engine, and extremely thin yet break-resistant polycarbonate films and sheet for the cockpit glazing.

DuPont said it will provide innovative photovoltaic modules and high-performance marine coatings to PlanetSolar, expected to be the largest solar boat ever built. The boat will undertake the first world tour powered by solar energy in 2011.

PlanetSolar is a 31 meter-long and 15 meter-wide catamaran covered by 500 square meters of photovoltaic solar panels that will power an electric motor. Some of DuPont’s materials in the boat will include Tedlar® polyvinyl fluoride (PVF) film, used as a component of the photovoltaic backsheet; the cockpit have been painted with DuPont™ PercoTop® 449, a topcoat system, while the external structure was painted with DuPont ™ Imron® Marine. The coatings are said to be specifically developed for marine conditions.

The solar cells, about 38,000 of them, is from SunPower Corp. Each cell, according to SunPower, offers an efficiency of at least 22%, said to be the highest efficiency solar cells commercially available. PlanetSolar is expected to embark on its round-the-world tour in early 2011.

FYI, the market for advanced chemicals and materials used in photovoltaic solar cells and modules is expected to grow 27% to reach $3.1 billion in 2010 and approximately $15 billion by 2015, according to a report from Linx-AEI Consulting. End market demand for solar power is expected to grow from 5.8 GW to 38 GW by 2015.

Here’s a cool video of PlanetSolar:

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